On paper, the bantamweight fight between Aljamain Sterling and Cory Sandhagen was arguably the most competitive bout on the UFC 250 card from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The bout, which looked to be a title eliminator, turned into a quick blowout, however, with Sterling quickly taking Sandhagen to the canvas and scoring a rear-naked choke submission.
Sterling (19-3) came out quickly, moving side-to-side on the feet and popping off quick strikes. The strikes were a smokescreen, allowing Sterling to get inside and grab on to Sandhagen (12-2). Sterling quickly shifted to take the back and take the fight to the canvas. Once they were on the ground, Sterling locked in a body triangle and patiently worked to lock in the rear-naked choke, scoring the submission at the 1:28 mark of Round 1.
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"I'm a viper, the human backpack. I put these hooks in and you aren't going anywhere, you're going to be there for a very, very long night. I heard his coach say, 'he's just looking to wrestle' and I said, yup haha," Sterling said after the fight. "That's my game plan, pressure forward, elite wrestlers can really dictate the pace of a fight, especially if you are competent on the feet, that's what makes us more dangerous. Striking is fun, but it hurts a lot more, I'll tell you that, wrestling is just an easier, clear-cut path to victory, especially when you are as dangerous on the ground as myself. There are black belts and then there are black belts, and I'm a Serra BJJ black belt."
With Henry Cejudo retiring and vacating the bantamweight championship, the division is wide open. Petr Yan and Jose Aldo are expected to fight for the vacant title and Sterling is now clearly the top man to challenge the new champion. Something Sterling made very clear after his win.
"This one is for everybody back home fighting the good fight and protesting," Sterling said after his victory. "I'm tired of all this hype s---, Petr Yan is the greatest. You better win your fight, because I'm coming for your ass."